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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 2000

Backstage Pass: The Ultimate Rock & Roll Trivia Game

SYSTEM: Windows

MAKER: Sierra Attractions

PRICE: $29.95

This program rocks with the same sassiness and fun You Don't Know Jack brought to computer trivia games, which makes sense since it's from the same company. The questions range from naming songs or groups, matching bands with the name of their final tour or musicians with their children or other facts. The game covers music from the '50s to the '90s and genres from rock to country to R&B to folk. Play against the computer or in three-player games. As with the Jack series, the humor isn't suitable for preteens.

- DAVE GUSSOW, Times personal technology editor

Generations Liberty Edition

PRICE: $69.95

SYSTEM: Windows

MAKER: Sierra Home

Sierra packages its excellent family tree charting software with a book, In Search of Your European Roots, photo enhancement software and a bundle of genealogy CD-ROMs emphasizing 19th century immigration. Its main value is the basic Generations software, which delivers an easy-to-use format for entering and viewing family information and produces attractive charts. The immigration CDs provide historical information with photos and maps that are limited in their utility by the small viewing area on the screen. You probably won't find your immigrant ancestors on the CD-ROMs, but you should understand better why they left home for America.

- HELEN HUNTLEY, Times staff writer

National Geographic Trip Planner Platinum 2001

SYSTEM: Windows

MAKER: Broderbund

PRICE: $39.95 It's hard to beat National Geographic when it comes to video and slide shows for vacation planning, and here's where Trip Planner shines. Short, beautifully photographed videos from the Everglades to the Pacific Northwest certainly whet an appetite for a trip. The program also will do maps, provide information and tips, link to the Internet and support Global Positioning Satellite information through Palm handheld devices. While National Geographic is a complete package, I didn't find it as easy to use as, say, Microsoft's Trip Planner. And, as with Microsoft's package, much of the map information provided by the software is available online for free.

- DAVE GUSSOW, Times personal technology editor

The World of Technology 3-D

SYSTEM: Windows

MAKER: Glasklar

PRICE: $29.99

This CD-ROM encyclopedia has great promise but comes up thin in content. It has some nice tech touches in the presentation, such as the ability to manipulate 3-D images to view all sides. It also has video, such as Edison visiting a light bulb factory and the Hindenburg flying over New York. It gives thumbnail sketches of inventors, from A (Manfred Ardenne) to Z (Vladimir Zworykin). Despite all that, as well as a time line of technological and scientific history and photos and illustrations, the information presented seemed pretty basic. It has a link to the Web search engine AltaVista, but more detail in the program would have helped.

- DAVE GUSSOW, Times personal technology editor

Mickey Saves the Day: 3-D Adventure


MAKER: Disney Interactive

PRICE: $19.99

This game is marketed as a game for "little kids," age 4 to 8. Well, it completely stumped my 4-year-old and her 8-year-old sister. Heck, it stumped me. You set out as Mickey or Minnie Mouse in search of a kidnapped Minnie or Mickey. Along the way you're supposed to find clues to solve puzzles, which give you access to additional parts of Mickey's hometown. After repeated attempts to get further than the opening locations -- Mickey's, Minnie's and Big Bad Pete's homes and Professor Von Drake's lab -- my frustrated kids gave up on the game. I turned to the help file. Instead of offering tips, the help file told me step by step how to solve the puzzles. Either the software developers realized the game was too difficult or someone mistakenly put too much information in the help file. (I think it was the former.) That's no fun.

- WILLIAM LAMPKIN, Times staff writer

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